Roots, Branches & Seeds of the Alpine (A110):
There are few French cars as popular as the Alpine Renault A110 and that is for many reasons. But the A110 didn’t just appear on the scene in 1961, the story loosely makes its way back to the mid-20th Century with the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive Renault 4CV when Jean Redele raced the car in rallies and began to look for ways to improve it. His first development was the A106.
Mechanical components from the 4CV were used in 1955 to build the Renault A106 and the car drew inspiration from the Renault Marquis, a USA bound coupe based on the 4CV that never entered production, and the Allemano which made it no further than prototype.
While the A106 used components from other cars, the body was constructed of 100% fiberglass by Chappe et Gessalin only a few years following the first Corvette. Renault would go on to develop a sport version of the A106 entitled the Mille Miglia, housing the most powerful engine at 43hp and had special options such as 4-shock absorbers at the rear and a 5-speed manual transmission (rare for its time). And lo and behold, it had a podium finish at the 1956 Mille Miglia race. Some destiny in the name?
Later prototyped but never manufactured was an all steel body version dubbed the A107. A cabriolet version was also coach-built by Triumph designer Giovanni Michelotti and later became the basis for the A108 after a hardtop was fitted.
Keeping with light-weight tradition, the Alpine A108 was rear-engined, rear-wheel drive, and had a fiberglass body. It was introduced in 1957 but the A106 outsold the 108 until 1960.
While the 106 used mechanical components from the Renault 4CV, the 108 used a combination of Renault Dauphine and A106 components and the engine from the Dauphine Gordini.
The 108 was available in cabriolet or 2+2 (GT4) variations also built by Chappe et Gessalin, and they sported an elongated chassis which paved the way and would be the backbone for the ever so famous A110.
Also known as the Berlinette, the A110 had the longest run beginning in the early 1960s and was the most successful of these, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive homologation coupes. It was powered by various different Renault engines including the 95hp Renault R8 Gordini engine and the 125hp Renault 16 engine which could power the car up to 130mph. Over its entire 16-year production run, the car would be fitted with 11-different engines.
But the early 1970s proved to be the A110’s claim to fame, when it won several European championships, the most popular being the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally driven by Ove Andersson and in 1973, Renault entered the A110 in the World Rally Championship. The following year, Renault bought out Alpine and made it its main competition arm.
There was a lesser known A110 2+2 (GT4) which was basically an A108 GT4 with an upgraded engine.
Six years before the end of the A110 production run, Alpine began making A310s.
With Renault pulling all the Alpine strings, the series of cars continued from the early 1970s to mid-1980s with the A310, having the same steel tube chassis, rear engine, rear-wheel drive layout and lightweight fiberglass body. It was initially offered only with a 125hp, 4-cylinder engine and 6-front headlights but was updated in 1976 with a 149hp, V6 engine and a top speed of 137mph.
The final years resulted in a Group4 racing inspired model with a bored out version of the previous V6 pushing out 193hp, larger wheel arches, and larger front & rear spoilers. It was called the GTPack.
The A310 was replaced by the GTA in 1986 and was only in production for 5-years. The car was essentially an updated A310 with integrated bumpers, cleaner edges, and more refined body panels which were now made of fiberglass and polyester plastic.
Over the 5-year production run, there was a naturally aspirated V6, a turbo version of the same engine, and a V6 Turbo Le Mans (among others).
Having an even shorter run than the GTA, the A610 was built from 1991-1995 and differed very little the GTA in looks, almost identical to the US spec GTA with pop-up headlights for better weight distribution from front to back. But while the car looked similar, it was about 95% different, using only the same windows and same engine with a larger capacity producing 250hp and it used the same idea; rear engine, rear-wheel drive, and steel tube chassis.
Although the car was created to attempt to revive sales, numbers were disappointing, forcing Renault/Alpine to cease production. It was the last production car of its kind.
At the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix, to celebrate the A110 turning 50-years old, Renault revived the Alpine name shocking the world with the A110-50 Concept.
The car is powered by the 3.5L V6 engine from the Renault Megane Trophy making 400hp but this time having a mid-rear mounted engine and a Formula 1 6-speed semi-automatic gearbox. Its design was inspired by Alpines of the past and the 2010 DeZir Concept.
One can only hope Renault/Alpine is planning on reviving the competition portion of its company and this wasn’t just for show. Fingers crossed.
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